Rainy days, trips to visit relatives and other common happenings can quickly bring about a case of the "Mom, I'm bored." With little more than a package of wooden toothpicks, a level play area and some creativity, you can conjure up entertaining activities with an extra bonus of family-time fun.
Kids won't realize they are gaining math skills when they play this game. Make a large square with eight toothpicks, using two toothpicks on each side of the square. Add four toothpicks inside the square so that they form a symmetrical cross, like a tic-tac-toe cross. You will now have the larger square with four squares inside it. Challenge the kids to reduce the number of squares to seven, and to do this by moving just two toothpicks. Hint: the seven squares won't all be the same size.
Grab a handful of toothpicks and place them on a table or other surface to begin playing "Taking Picks." Decide which child will play first. The first player may take one or four toothpicks. The second may take either one, three or five. The person who is able to take the very last toothpick wins the game. If more than two children play, select different numbers for each player but make sure each child takes only one toothpick in case only one remains at the final turn.
Pick-up Sticks has been played for generations and typically involves longer, colored sticks that have varying point values, but kids will enjoy this lighter-weight version, as well. Grab a large handful of toothpicks, holding them all vertically with your fist. Release them onto the table or other flat surface, letting them fall freely in a pile. The children take turns attempting to pick up one stick without moving any others. If they move a stick, they lose their turn. The player with the most sticks wins.
Toothpick games can also help kids burn off energy. Create a racing game with toothpicks and something small, such as building blocks, twigs or rocks. Set one or more of these items for each child at a starting point and determine a finish line. When you say, "Go," the kids should pick up the item using two toothpicks and race to the finish line. If several kids are playing, make it a relay race in which they must pass the item to another player using only toothpicks.